Open Source Mandatory for Indian Government Projects

I've written about the potential for open source in China several times, and the same can be said about India. Here's some big news on that front, just announced by the Government of India's Department Of Electronics & Information Technology.

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I've written about the potential for open source in China several times, and the same can be said about India. Here's some big news on that front, just announced by the Government of India's Department Of Electronics & Information Technology [.pdf]:

Government of India shall endeavour to adopt Open Source Software in all e-Governance systems implemented by various Government organizations, as a preferred option in comparison to Closed Source Software (CSS).

The new policy is "mandatory", and applies to the following projects:

The policy shall be applicable to all Government Organisations under the Central Governments and those State Governments that choose to adopt this policy for the following categories of e-Governance systems:

All new e-Governance applications and systems being considered for implementation.

New versions of the legacy and existing system

It's particularly interesting to see that second class: typically, legacy systems are regarded as too hard to upgrade to completely new platforms. To include them in the new open source policy is a very bold move. Here's how the new policy will be applied:

All Government Organizations, while implementing e-Governance applications and systems must include a specific requirement in Request for Proposal (RFP) for all suppliers to consider OSS along with CSS while responding. Suppliers shall provide justification for exclusion of OSS in their response, as the case may be. Government Organizations shall ensure compliance with this requirement and decide by comparing both OSS and CSS options with respect to capability, strategic control, scalability, security, life-time costs and support requirements.

As that makes clear, open source may be excluded in some circumstances:

in certain specialised domains where OSS solutions meeting essential functional requirements may not be available or in case of urgent/strategic need to deploy CSS based solutions or lack of expertise (skill set) in identified technologies, the concerned Government Organization may consider exceptions, with sufficient justification.

which is a reasonable approach to take. As far as implementation of the policy is concerned:

GoI [the Government of India] shall publish a policy framework for rapid and effective adoption of OSS covering the prioritization of the application areas and illustrative list of OSS & OSS Stacks etc, required for various functional areas.

There's also some sensible outreach to the open source community in India:

GoI shall establish suitable support mechanism for the available OSS that includes Institutional Mechanism, Partnership with Industry, Academia and OSS Community.

GoI shall actively collaborate with OSS communities in India as well as at the International level and contribute wherever appropriate.

The policy is surprisingly concise, and yet very comprehensive. Of course, implementing such a policy will be a challenge, and it remains to be seen how loopholes are exploited, but the important thing is that this public statement of intent has been made. If the Indian government is able to realise this policy, it will potentially have an important impact not just on India, but also further afield: by its very nature, open source has no national boundaries, which means that progress in one part of the world benefits everywhere else. That's another good reason to hope the new policy succeeds.

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